In primary schools across the world, teachers spend hours pointing out to their students the wonder of the natural world – the way all the pieces fit together to make a whole. Bug-eyed kids stare avidly at the inner workings of an ant’s nest; others might be shown a video of the ways bee colonies organise themselves. Even photosynthesis, when you get down to it, is something bordering on the miraculous – an evolutionary process that has made the world a cleaner, healthier place all the while keeping plants very much alive.
The millions of things that make up a natural ecosystem are a thing of wonder – and as the bumper audiences for anything David Attenborough does have proven, it’s not just mind-blowing for youngsters.
Cities are not as naturally beautiful as the morning dawn on the Serengeti, but they are extraordinary ecosystems nonetheless.
Like the natural world, all the pieces have to fit together – from a transport network to housing policy. In its complexity it is just as beautiful as anything found on a BBC2 Sunday night documentary – and it is also just as fragile.
Yesterday’s rail strike took a hammer to one vital part of our city’s ecosystem; the hospitality trade. The union bosses behind this most viciously timed walkout say it’s the only way they can get rail companies and the government to listen – but they also admit that the rail companies are compensated whenever they down tools, so it’s an argument that barely holds water. And what these strikes have done is drive a coach and horses through the Coach and Horses’ plan to get back on its feet after the pandemic – as it has done to various other businesses.
The real victims of this strike are the bar staff who have had their hours cut, the waiters who went home early, the kitchen porters and the cab drivers who are faced with empty streets on what should be the busiest time of the year. They risk grave damage to our city – and they’re hurting the lowest paid the most. Some solidarity that is.